A recent article on the #Indiepocalypse got me thinking about my roots in the gaming community. I’ve been writing about indie and casual games for over ten years. In internet years, that’s about three lifetimes. Steam didn’t exist when my career began, Shockwave was the go-to platform for browser games, and mobile games were Java implementations of Snake played on Nokia flip phones. What a world!
From 2006 to 2014, I worked at what was probably the top indie/casual gaming reviews publication on the web. The site grew from a hobby blog to employing a group of paid freelancers. It was a tremendous ride and I enjoyed every minute of it. After reading the indiepocalypse article, I paid the old stomping grounds a visit and took a look at the “best” games on the site, as ranked by reader votes over the years. Some of the results were gimmes, but a few stood out of the pack as honest-to-Zeus gaming gems.
Plants vs Zombies – The original PvZ was an amazing piece of work. Familiar mechanics taken to new places, fantastic artwork, and the perfect sense of humor. Definitely deserves the top spot on the list. The sequels? They can burn in zombie hell.
World of Goo – Again, another gorgeous, lighthearted game that took something familiar and molded it into something phenomenal.
Drawn: Dark Flight – Ah, a hidden object game! You’d think one of the Mystery Case Files releases would have scored a top spot, but they didn’t even make the top 20. Drawn’s biggest strength was its storytelling. It ditched most of the tropes and stuck with good characterization and simple but enjoyable puzzles.
Emerald City Confidential – One of the early releases from Wadjet Eye, the team behind the Blackwell games, Emerald City Confidential is an adventure game that tells an alternate tale in the Wizard of Oz universe. Again, familiarity meets something new.
Miss Management – I’m surprised this one snagged a top spot, simply because I’ve always viewed it as an overlooked masterpiece. The time management game takes place in an office setting with a sense of humor straight out of Office Space. Great game, hilarious writing, vastly underappreciated. Side-note: the studio behind Miss Management was shuttered shortly after the game’s release. Sadness.